Paul Tripp has provided the church with another excellent tool for Christian living and biblical counseling with his latest title, What Did You Expect?? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage. With this title Tripp focuses on several key principles for the Christian life, and how they affect (and should affect) your marriage. If you are familiar with Tripp’s previous work then this book will not break a lot of new ground. However, it does help to apply some of the principles he has been so faithful in teaching (i.e. heart idolatry, the importance of worship, etc.) in the realm of marriage.
Tripp orients the teaching of this book around six commitments that He would like to see married couples make:
1. We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
2. We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
3. We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
4. We will commit to building a relationship of love.
5. We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
6. We will work to protect our marriage.
Each of these commitments was personally convicting, and all point back to the larger principles of working at your marriage. As the title suggest Tripp points out that many couples get married with the wrong kind of expectations. Tripp astutely observes that “life after the honeymoon is radically different from the honeymoon that preceded it. The person you loved to play with, you are now living and working with.” (32) This means that to have ongoing growth in your marriage you need to be committed to working at it.
Additionally, Tripp rightly argues that before you can deal with the problems horizontally (with your wife), you must first deal with your problems vertically (before God). As Tripp puts it,
It is only when I love God above all else that I will ever love my neighbor as myself. At the foundational level, the difficulties in our marriage do not first come because we don’t love one another enough. They happen because we don’t love God enough; and because we don’t love God enough we don’t treat one another with the kind of love that makes marriages work. (36)
Thus, in order to improve (sanctify) our marriages we must be committed to the process and committed to God. The rest of the book deals with the specifics of how this happens.
Overall I loved this book. It challenged me personally, and it will be a useful resource in the context of counseling. The only criticism that I have of the book is I wish that it had been better organized around the 6 commitments I listed above. The commitments were displayed before every chapter, but it might have been helpful if these commitments were more overtly tied to the content of the chapter. It seemed as if the chapters were written before the commitments. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it could have tied the overall theme of the book together more effectively if these commitments had been incorporated more into each chapter.
That being said, I will read this again and I will have others read it as well.